[ OUR OPINION ]
Mixed blessings in
a season of comfort
THIS DAY finds America noting a color that's not quite the season's joyful red, although its Christmas companion, green, remains true with the nation's economy budding again. The United States and Hawaii possess a mixture of blessing and misfortune that mirrors the larger world. Still, it is mostly grace and rightness that surround the country, reasons for optimism on the holiday that offers hope.
Despite strife and concerns about terrorism, hope for peace and prosperity endures.
Threats that the nation's security officials deem "credible" have raised the terror alert level to "orange" through the holidays, the second highest on the five-color scale, but while authorities increase their vigilance at airports, borders and shipping facilities, public attention seems fixed on the rites of the holiday season. Last-minute shoppers still trolled malls and stores, and travelers boarded planes, trains and buses to join friends and families for celebrations, recognizing that while danger may prowl unseen, our traditions and way of life must go on.
The discovery of mad cow disease in the United States adds another concern as people cook up festive Christmas dinners. The immediate effects of the deadly infection plagued the stock market and dealt a nasty blow to the $27 billion U.S. cattle industry that saw a rosy future just a few weeks ago as the consumption of beef swelled along with prices.
Other economic news is brighter as Americans are earning and spending more, continuing to fuel growth during the final months of this year. In Hawaii, massive construction projects portend a stronger local economy after nearly a decade of slog, and increases in personal income could mean bigger revenues in the tourism sector. Although state unemployment figures remain higher than last year's, there is some comfort in that Hawaii's rates are well behind national levels.
Nonetheless, homelessness in the islands has increased significantly in recent years, and the high cost of housing continues to rise as more new residents pump up demand for homes beyond what is available on the market. Many people in Hawaii go hungry every day as social service agencies struggle to feed the needy while resources dwindle.
Hostilities overseas have left empty seats at holiday tables as men and women in the military are obliged to observe Christmas and the start of a new year in treacherous locations -- Iraq and Afghanistan -- so that those at home can savor a measure of safety and freedom. Families whose loved ones have been killed in the conflicts will suffer their absence keenly today and in years to come.
Yet this grief and pain, hate and despair, are countered by the significance of the season, not only through religious beliefs, but through the universal tenets of humanity that embrace a sanguinity expressed in the familiar and comforting words -- peace on Earth, good will to all.